Rabalais: Snubbed, NOLA now turns focus to 2019 title game

It’s not enough.

It’s not enough to be the best city to host a major sporting event, which New Orleans is. Indianapolis comes close, but Midwestern hominess is no match for the Crescent City’s centuries of history, culture and the-place-to-be vibe.

It’s not enough to prove yourself with more Super Bowls than any city but Miami, a heaping handful of Final Fours (men’s and women’s) and one of the oldest and most tradition-steeped college bowl games in the business.

The new College Football Playoff is all business, and despite the fact that the Sugar Bowl was chosen earlier this year as one of the CFP’s coveted six rotating semifinal host games, New Orleans was shut out when the CFP awarded its 2016 championship game to Glendale, Ariz., the Phoenix suburb that’s home to the Fiesta Bowl.

It was a surprising snub given the reasons that make New Orleans such a great host city. But not at all surprising considering it was reported that Glendale and Tampa, Fla. (which was awarded the 2017 CFP title game for which New Orleans didn’t bid) ponied up about $13 million each.

New Orleans’ bid was about half that. Maybe the city was able to offer a great table at Galatoire’s and some Mardi Gras beads, but unlike the Manhattan Indians long ago the CFP wasn’t willing to make a discount deal.

New Orleans has done as well in the CFP arms race to this point. The Sugar Bowl will have a national semifinal every three years, always in prime time on New Year’s night, and in the years it doesn’t have a semifinal, it is guaranteed a matchup of the best Southeastern Conference and Big 12 teams not in the playoff (the so-called “Champions Bowl,” virtually identical to the Rose Bowl).

But being guaranteed a CFP championship game isn’t part of the deal. I firmly believe it’s going to grow into a highly coveted event that will eventually rank behind only the Super Bowl on the national sports scene. And unlike the Final Four, which at this point is still limited to domed stadiums, CFP organizers have said their game could go to any city that has the ability to host a Super Bowl. You can virtually bank on one going to the San Francisco 49ers’ soon-to-be completed new stadium, and it would be a shock if there isn’t a championship game in the near future at New York’s MetLife Stadium (host of February’s Super Bowl) or Chicago or Indianapolis or the Minnesota Vikings’ soon-to-be-built new stadium.

It would be foolish to bet against New Orleans not getting a CFP championship game during the life of the playoff’s initial 12-year contract. But the city and Sugar Bowl organizers were banking on getting one early and landing another one late. The years the Sugar Bowl hosts semifinals (2015, 2018, 2021 and 2024) are out because you can’t have a semifinal and the final in the same year, further limiting New Orleans’ window of opportunity to host the championship game.

Did folks in New Orleans assume too much when it came to the CFP championship? I think it was more a case of not enough financial support, particularly from the state government level. Some will find the idea of the state helping pay to lure a sporting event distasteful, but it is an investment sure to provide a big return once the game is played and fans start arriving, credit cards in hand.

Much like a political campaign, the clock for New Orleans to land the 2019 CFP championship game has already started.

It’s a game New Orleans and Louisiana need to win.

A few other random thoughts …

… I figured Garrett Hartley would be on dangerous turf with the Saints after missing two key field goals in Sunday’s 27-16 loss at St. Louis, so it was hardly a surprise New Orleans cut him Tuesday.

Hartley will forever have a place in Saints history as the man whose foot put New Orleans into its first-ever Super Bowl with his overtime kick against Minnesota in the 2009 NFC Championship Game.

But there is no room for sentimentality in pro football, especially when you face an enormous, playoff implication-filled game as the Saints do Sunday at Carolina. Still, it’s a sad situation overall.

… The commitment of five-star Illinois linebacker Clifton Garrett on Tuesday was one of the worst-kept secrets in the recruiting game. Garrett apparently gave his pledge to LSU’s coaches on his visit to the campus nearly a month ago.

It is nonetheless a huge slab of good news for an LSU football program whose recruiting class could be on the verge of true greatness.

The Tigers have a legitimate shot at least seven other five-star prospects on the 24/7 Sports Top 247: St. Augustine running back Leonard Fournette; Gardenia, Calif., cornerback Adoree Jackson; Beaumont, Texas, cornerback Tony Brown (likely the next to commit to LSU); Edna Karr wide receiver Speedy Noil and defensive tackle Gerald Willis; John Curtis wide receiver Malachi Dupre; and Carrollton, Texas, safety Jamal Adams.

LSU isn’t a lock to get them all but will likely get most.

… Sorry, but I still think select/non-select state championship game format is one of the worst ideas ever. Sure, a lot of teams that don’t usually get to make a run at the Superdome got there this year, but they greatly watered down what it means to win a state championship. Personally, I’d like to see them do away with Class 5A, too, but that’ll never happen.